Argon

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Argon, 18Ar
Argon discharge tube.jpg
Argon
Pronunciation /ˈɑːrɡɒn/ (AR-gon)
Appearancecolorless gas exhibiting a lilac/violet glow when placed in an electric field
Standard atomic weight Ar, std(Ar)[39.792, 39.963]conventional: 39.95 [1]
Argon in the periodic table
Hydrogen Helium
Lithium Beryllium Boron Carbon Nitrogen Oxygen Fluorine Neon
Sodium Magnesium Aluminium Silicon Phosphorus Sulfur Chlorine Argon
Potassium Calcium Scandium Titanium Vanadium Chromium Manganese Iron Cobalt Nickel Copper Zinc Gallium Germanium Arsenic Selenium Bromine Krypton
Rubidium Strontium Yttrium Zirconium Niobium Molybdenum Technetium Ruthenium Rhodium Palladium Silver Cadmium Indium Tin Antimony Tellurium Iodine Xenon
Caesium Barium Lanthanum Cerium Praseodymium Neodymium Promethium Samarium Europium Gadolinium Terbium Dysprosium Holmium Erbium Thulium Ytterbium Lutetium Hafnium Tantalum Tungsten Rhenium Osmium Iridium Platinum Gold Mercury (element) Thallium Lead Bismuth Polonium Astatine Radon
Francium Radium Actinium Thorium Protactinium Uranium Neptunium Plutonium Americium Curium Berkelium Californium Einsteinium Fermium Mendelevium Nobelium Lawrencium Rutherfordium Dubnium Seaborgium Bohrium Hassium Meitnerium Darmstadtium Roentgenium Copernicium Nihonium Flerovium Moscovium Livermorium Tennessine Oganesson
Ne

Ar

Kr
chlorineargonpotassium
Atomic number (Z)18
Group group 18 (noble gases)
Period period 3
Block p-block
Element category   Noble gas
Electron configuration [ Ne ] 3s2 3p6
Electrons per shell2, 8, 8
Physical properties
Phase at  STP gas
Melting point 83.81  K (−189.34 °C,−308.81 °F)
Boiling point 87.302 K(−185.848 °C,−302.526 °F)
Density (at STP)1.784 g/L
when liquid (at b.p.)1.3954 g/cm3
Triple point 83.8058 K,68.89 kPa [2]
Critical point 150.687 K, 4.863 MPa [2]
Heat of fusion 1.18  kJ/mol
Heat of vaporization 6.53 kJ/mol
Molar heat capacity 20.85 [3]  J/(mol·K)
Vapor pressure
P (Pa)1101001 k10 k100 k
at T (K) 4753617187
Atomic properties
Oxidation states 0
Electronegativity Pauling scale: no data
Ionization energies
  • 1st: 1520.6 kJ/mol
  • 2nd: 2665.8 kJ/mol
  • 3rd: 3931 kJ/mol
  • (more)
Covalent radius 106±10  pm
Van der Waals radius 188 pm
Color lines in a spectral range Argon spectrum visible.png
Color lines in a spectral range
Spectral lines of argon
Other properties
Natural occurrence primordial
Crystal structure face-centered cubic (fcc)
Cubic-face-centered.svg
Speed of sound 323 m/s (gas, at 27 °C)
Thermal conductivity 17.72×103  W/(m·K)
Magnetic ordering diamagnetic [4]
Magnetic susceptibility −19.6·10−6 cm3/mol [5]
CAS Number 7440-37-1
History
Discovery and first isolation Lord Rayleigh and William Ramsay (1894)
Main isotopes of argon
Iso­tope Abun­dance Half-life (t1/2) Decay mode Pro­duct
36Ar0.334% stable
37Ar syn 35 d ε 37Cl
38Ar0.063%stable
39Ar trace 269 y β 39K
40Ar99.604%stable
41Arsyn109.34 minβ 41K
42Arsyn32.9 yβ 42K
36
Ar
and 38
Ar
content may be as high as 2.07% and 4.3% respectively in natural samples. 40
Ar
is the remainder in such cases, whose content may be as low as 93.6%.
Folder Hexagonal Icon.svg  Category: Argon
| references

Argon is a chemical element with the symbol  Ar and atomic number  18. It is in group 18 of the periodic table and is a noble gas. [6] Argon is the third-most abundant gas in the Earth's atmosphere, at 0.934% (9340 ppmv). It is more than twice as abundant as water vapor (which averages about 4000 ppmv, but varies greatly), 23 times as abundant as carbon dioxide (400 ppmv), and more than 500 times as abundant as neon (18 ppmv). Argon is the most abundant noble gas in Earth's crust, comprising 0.00015% of the crust.

Contents

Nearly all of the argon in the Earth's atmosphere is radiogenic argon-40, derived from the decay of potassium-40 in the Earth's crust. In the universe, argon-36 is by far the most common argon isotope, as it is the most easily produced by stellar nucleosynthesis in supernovas.

The name "argon" is derived from the Greek word ἀργόν, neuter singular form of ἀργός meaning "lazy" or "inactive", as a reference to the fact that the element undergoes almost no chemical reactions. The complete octet (eight electrons) in the outer atomic shell makes argon stable and resistant to bonding with other elements. Its triple point temperature of 83.8058  K is a defining fixed point in the International Temperature Scale of 1990.

Argon is produced industrially by the fractional distillation of liquid air. Argon is mostly used as an inert shielding gas in welding and other high-temperature industrial processes where ordinarily unreactive substances become reactive; for example, an argon atmosphere is used in graphite electric furnaces to prevent the graphite from burning. Argon is also used in incandescent, fluorescent lighting, and other gas-discharge tubes. Argon makes a distinctive blue-green gas laser. Argon is also used in fluorescent glow starters.

Characteristics

A small piece of rapidly melting solid argon Argon ice 1.jpg
A small piece of rapidly melting solid argon

Argon has approximately the same solubility in water as oxygen and is 2.5 times more soluble in water than nitrogen. Argon is colorless, odorless, nonflammable and nontoxic as a solid, liquid or gas. [7] Argon is chemically inert under most conditions and forms no confirmed stable compounds at room temperature.

Although argon is a noble gas, it can form some compounds under various extreme conditions. Argon fluorohydride (HArF), a compound of argon with fluorine and hydrogen that is stable below 17 K (−256.1 °C; −429.1 °F), has been demonstrated. [8] [9] Although the neutral ground-state chemical compounds of argon are presently limited to HArF, argon can form clathrates with water when atoms of argon are trapped in a lattice of water molecules. [10] Ions, such as ArH+
, and excited-state complexes, such as ArF, have been demonstrated. Theoretical calculation predicts several more argon compounds that should be stable [11] but have not yet been synthesized.

History

A: test-tube, B: dilute alkali, C: U-shaped glass tube, D: platinum electrode Isolation of Argon.png
A: test-tube, B: dilute alkali, C: U-shaped glass tube, D: platinum electrode

Argon (Greek ἀργόν, neuter singular form of ἀργός meaning "lazy" or "inactive"), is named in reference to its chemical inactivity. This chemical property of this first noble gas to be discovered impressed the namers. [12] [13] An unreactive gas was suspected to be a component of air by Henry Cavendish in 1785. [14]

Argon was first isolated from air in 1894 by Lord Rayleigh and Sir William Ramsay at University College London by removing oxygen, carbon dioxide, water, and nitrogen from a sample of clean air. [15] [16] [17] They first accomplished this by replicating an experiment of Henry Cavendish's. They trapped a mixture of atmospheric air with additional oxygen in a test-tube (A) upside-down over a large quantity of dilute alkali solution (B), which in Canvendish's original experiment was potassium hydroxide, [14] and conveyed a current through wires insulated by U-shaped glass tubes (CC) which sealed around the platinum wire electrodes, leaving the ends of the wires (DD) exposed to the gas and insulated from the alkali solution. The arc was powered by a battery of five Grove cells and a Ruhmkorff coil of medium size. The alkali absorbed the oxides of nitrogen produced by the arc and also carbon dioxide. They operated the arc until no more reduction of volume of the gas could be seen for at least an hour or two and the spectral lines of nitrogen disappeared when the gas was examined. The remaining oxygen was reacted with alkaline pyrogallate to leave behind an apparently non-reactive gas which they called Argon.

Before isolating the gas, they had determined that nitrogen produced from chemical compounds was 0.5% lighter than nitrogen from the atmosphere. The difference was slight, but it was important enough to attract their attention for many months. They concluded that there was another gas in the air mixed in with the nitrogen. [18] Argon was also encountered in 1882 through independent research of H. F. Newall and W. N. Hartley.[ citation needed ] Each observed new lines in the emission spectrum of air that did not match known elements.

Until 1957, the symbol for argon was "A", but now it is "Ar". [19]

Occurrence

Argon constitutes 0.934% by volume and 1.288% by mass of the Earth's atmosphere, [20] and air is the primary industrial source of purified argon products. Argon is isolated from air by fractionation, most commonly by cryogenic fractional distillation, a process that also produces purified nitrogen, oxygen, neon, krypton and xenon. [21] The Earth's crust and seawater contain 1.2 ppm and 0.45 ppm of argon, respectively. [22]

Isotopes

The main isotopes of argon found on Earth are 40
Ar
(99.6%), 36
Ar
(0.34%), and 38
Ar
(0.06%). Naturally occurring 40
K
, with a half-life of 1.25×109 years, decays to stable 40
Ar
(11.2%) by electron capture or positron emission, and also to stable 40
Ca
(88.8%) by beta decay. These properties and ratios are used to determine the age of rocks by K–Ar dating. [22] [23]

In the Earth's atmosphere, 39
Ar
is made by cosmic ray activity, primarily by neutron capture of 40
Ar
followed by two-neutron emission. In the subsurface environment, it is also produced through neutron capture by 39
K
, followed by proton emission. 37
Ar
is created from the neutron capture by 40
Ca
followed by an alpha particle emission as a result of subsurface nuclear explosions. It has a half-life of 35 days. [23]

Between locations in the Solar System, the isotopic composition of argon varies greatly. Where the major source of argon is the decay of 40
K
in rocks, 40
Ar
will be the dominant isotope, as it is on Earth. Argon produced directly by stellar nucleosynthesis, is dominated by the alpha-process nuclide 36
Ar
. Correspondingly, solar argon contains 84.6% 36
Ar
(according to solar wind measurements), [24] and the ratio of the three isotopes 36Ar : 38Ar : 40Ar in the atmospheres of the outer planets is 8400 : 1600 : 1. [25] This contrasts with the low abundance of primordial 36
Ar
in Earth's atmosphere, which is only 31.5 ppmv (= 9340 ppmv × 0.337%), comparable with that of neon (18.18 ppmv) on Earth and with interplanetary gasses, measured by probes.

The atmospheres of Mars, Mercury and Titan (the largest moon of Saturn) contain argon, predominantly as 40
Ar
, and its content may be as high as 1.93% (Mars). [26]

The predominance of radiogenic 40
Ar
is the reason the standard atomic weight of terrestrial argon is greater than that of the next element, potassium, a fact that was puzzling when argon was discovered. Mendeleev positioned the elements on his periodic table in order of atomic weight, but the inertness of argon suggested a placement before the reactive alkali metal. Henry Moseley later solved this problem by showing that the periodic table is actually arranged in order of atomic number (see History of the periodic table).

Compounds

Space-filling model of argon fluorohydride Argon-fluorohydride-3D-vdW.png
Space-filling model of argon fluorohydride

Argon's complete octet of electrons indicates full s and p subshells. This full valence shell makes argon very stable and extremely resistant to bonding with other elements. Before 1962, argon and the other noble gases were considered to be chemically inert and unable to form compounds; however, compounds of the heavier noble gases have since been synthesized. The first argon compound with tungsten pentacarbonyl, W(CO)5Ar, was isolated in 1975. However it was not widely recognised at that time. [27] In August 2000, another argon compound, argon fluorohydride (HArF), was formed by researchers at the University of Helsinki, by shining ultraviolet light onto frozen argon containing a small amount of hydrogen fluoride with caesium iodide. This discovery caused the recognition that argon could form weakly bound compounds, even though it was not the first. [9] [28] [29] It is stable up to 17  kelvin s (−256 °C). The metastable ArCF2+
2
dication, which is valence-isoelectronic with carbonyl fluoride and phosgene, was observed in 2010. [30] Argon-36, in the form of argon hydride (argonium) ions, has been detected in interstellar medium associated with the Crab Nebula supernova; this was the first noble-gas molecule detected in outer space. [31] [32]

Solid argon hydride (Ar(H2)2) has the same crystal structure as the MgZn2 Laves phase. It forms at pressures between 4.3 and 220 GPa, though Raman measurements suggest that the H2 molecules in Ar(H2)2 dissociate above 175 GPa. [33]

Production

Industrial

Argon is produced industrially by the fractional distillation of liquid air in a cryogenic air separation unit; a process that separates liquid nitrogen, which boils at 77.3 K, from argon, which boils at 87.3 K, and liquid oxygen, which boils at 90.2 K. About 700,000 tonnes of argon are produced worldwide every year. [22] [34]

In radioactive decays

40Ar, the most abundant isotope of argon, is produced by the decay of 40 K with a half-life of 1.25×109 years by electron capture or positron emission. Because of this, it is used in potassium–argon dating to determine the age of rocks.

Applications

Cylinders containing argon gas for use in extinguishing fire without damaging server equipment Argon.jpg
Cylinders containing argon gas for use in extinguishing fire without damaging server equipment

Argon has several desirable properties:

Other noble gases would be equally suitable for most of these applications, but argon is by far the cheapest. Argon is inexpensive, since it occurs naturally in air and is readily obtained as a byproduct of cryogenic air separation in the production of liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen: the primary constituents of air are used on a large industrial scale. The other noble gases (except helium) are produced this way as well, but argon is the most plentiful by far. The bulk of argon applications arise simply because it is inert and relatively cheap.

Industrial processes

Argon is used in some high-temperature industrial processes where ordinarily non-reactive substances become reactive. For example, an argon atmosphere is used in graphite electric furnaces to prevent the graphite from burning.

For some of these processes, the presence of nitrogen or oxygen gases might cause defects within the material. Argon is used in some types of arc welding such as gas metal arc welding and gas tungsten arc welding, as well as in the processing of titanium and other reactive elements. An argon atmosphere is also used for growing crystals of silicon and germanium.

Argon is used in the poultry industry to asphyxiate birds, either for mass culling following disease outbreaks, or as a means of slaughter more humane than electric stunning. Argon is denser than air and displaces oxygen close to the ground during inert gas asphyxiation. [35] [36] Its non-reactive nature makes it suitable in a food product, and since it replaces oxygen within the dead bird, argon also enhances shelf life. [37]

Argon is sometimes used for extinguishing fires where valuable equipment may be damaged by water or foam. [38]

Scientific research

Liquid argon is used as the target for neutrino experiments and direct dark matter searches. The interaction between the hypothetical WIMPs and an argon nucleus produces scintillation light that is detected by photomultiplier tubes. Two-phase detectors containing argon gas are used to detect the ionized electrons produced during the WIMP–nucleus scattering. As with most other liquefied noble gases, argon has a high scintillation light yield (about 51 photons/keV [39] ), is transparent to its own scintillation light, and is relatively easy to purify. Compared to xenon, argon is cheaper and has a distinct scintillation time profile, which allows the separation of electronic recoils from nuclear recoils. On the other hand, its intrinsic beta-ray background is larger due to 39
Ar
contamination, unless one uses argon from underground sources, which has much less 39
Ar
contamination. Most of the argon in the Earth's atmosphere was produced by electron capture of long-lived 40
K
(40
K
+ e40
Ar
+ ν) present in natural potassium within the Earth. The 39
Ar
activity in the atmosphere is maintained by cosmogenic production through the knockout reaction 40
Ar
(n,2n)39
Ar
and similar reactions. The half-life of 39
Ar
is only 269 years. As a result, the underground Ar, shielded by rock and water, has much less 39
Ar
contamination. [40] Dark-matter detectors currently operating with liquid argon include DarkSide, WArP, ArDM, microCLEAN and DEAP. Neutrino experiments include ICARUS and MicroBooNE, both of which use high-purity liquid argon in a time projection chamber for fine grained three-dimensional imaging of neutrino interactions.

At Linköping University, Sweden, the inert gas is being utilized in a vacuum chamber in which plasma is introduced to ionize metallic films. [41] This process results in a film usable for manufacturing computer processors. The new process would eliminate the need for chemical baths and use of expensive, dangerous and rare materials.

Preservative

A sample of caesium is packed under argon to avoid reactions with air CsCrystals.JPG
A sample of caesium is packed under argon to avoid reactions with air

Argon is used to displace oxygen- and moisture-containing air in packaging material to extend the shelf-lives of the contents (argon has the European food additive code E938). Aerial oxidation, hydrolysis, and other chemical reactions that degrade the products are retarded or prevented entirely. High-purity chemicals and pharmaceuticals are sometimes packed and sealed in argon.

In winemaking, argon is used in a variety of activities to provide a barrier against oxygen at the liquid surface, which can spoil wine by fueling both microbial metabolism (as with acetic acid bacteria) and standard redox chemistry.

Argon is sometimes used as the propellant in aerosol cans for such products as varnish, polyurethane, and paint, and to displace air when preparing a container for storage after opening. [42]

Since 2002, the American National Archives stores important national documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution within argon-filled cases to inhibit their degradation. Argon is preferable to the helium that had been used in the preceding five decades, because helium gas escapes through the intermolecular pores in most containers and must be regularly replaced. [43]

Laboratory equipment

Gloveboxes are often filled with argon, which recirculates over scrubbers to maintain an oxygen-, nitrogen-, and moisture-free atmosphere Glovebox.jpg
Gloveboxes are often filled with argon, which recirculates over scrubbers to maintain an oxygen-, nitrogen-, and moisture-free atmosphere

Argon may be used as the inert gas within Schlenk lines and gloveboxes. Argon is preferred to less expensive nitrogen in cases where nitrogen may react with the reagents or apparatus.

Argon may be used as the carrier gas in gas chromatography and in electrospray ionization mass spectrometry; it is the gas of choice for the plasma used in ICP spectroscopy. Argon is preferred for the sputter coating of specimens for scanning electron microscopy. Argon gas is also commonly used for sputter deposition of thin films as in microelectronics and for wafer cleaning in microfabrication.

Medical use

Cryosurgery procedures such as cryoablation use liquid argon to destroy tissue such as cancer cells. It is used in a procedure called "argon-enhanced coagulation", a form of argon plasma beam electrosurgery. The procedure carries a risk of producing gas embolism and has resulted in the death of at least one patient. [44]

Blue argon lasers are used in surgery to weld arteries, destroy tumors, and correct eye defects. [22]

Argon has also been used experimentally to replace nitrogen in the breathing or decompression mix known as Argox, to speed the elimination of dissolved nitrogen from the blood. [45]

Lighting

Argon gas-discharge lamp forming the symbol for argon "Ar" ArTube.jpg
Argon gas-discharge lamp forming the symbol for argon "Ar"

Incandescent lights are filled with argon, to preserve the filaments at high temperature from oxidation. It is used for the specific way it ionizes and emits light, such as in plasma globes and calorimetry in experimental particle physics. Gas-discharge lamps filled with pure argon provide lilac/violet light; with argon and some mercury, blue light. Argon is also used for blue and green argon-ion lasers.

Miscellaneous uses

Argon is used for thermal insulation in energy-efficient windows. [46] Argon is also used in technical scuba diving to inflate a dry suit because it is inert and has low thermal conductivity. [47]

Argon is used as a propellant in the development of the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR). Compressed argon gas is allowed to expand, to cool the seeker heads of some versions of the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile and other missiles that use cooled thermal seeker heads. The gas is stored at high pressure. [48]

Argon-39, with a half-life of 269 years, has been used for a number of applications, primarily ice core and ground water dating. Also, potassium–argon dating and related argon-argon dating is used to date sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks. [22]

Argon has been used by athletes as a doping agent to simulate hypoxic conditions. In 2014, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) added argon and xenon to the list of prohibited substances and methods, although at this time there is no reliable test for abuse. [49]

Safety

Although argon is non-toxic, it is 38% more dense than air and therefore considered a dangerous asphyxiant in closed areas. It is difficult to detect because it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. A 1994 incident, in which a man was asphyxiated after entering an argon-filled section of oil pipe under construction in Alaska, highlights the dangers of argon tank leakage in confined spaces and emphasizes the need for proper use, storage and handling. [50]

See also

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Industrial gases are the gaseous materials that are manufactured for use in industry. The principal gases provided are nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, argon, hydrogen, helium and acetylene, although many other gases and mixtures are also available in gas cylinders. The industry producing these gases is also known as industrial gas, which is seen as also encompassing the supply of equipment and technology to produce and use the gases. Their production is a part of the wider chemical Industry.

Krypton Chemical element with atomic number 36

Krypton is a chemical element with the symbol Kr and atomic number 36. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas that occurs in trace amounts in the atmosphere and is often used with other rare gases in fluorescent lamps. With rare exceptions, krypton is chemically inert.

In chemistry, the term chemically inert is used to describe a substance that is not chemically reactive. From a thermodynamic perspective, a substance is inert, or nonlabile, if it is thermodynamically unstable yet decomposes at a slow, or negligible rate.

Argon compounds, the chemical compounds that contain the element argon, are rarely encountered due to the inertness of the argon atom. However, compounds of argon have been detected in inert gas matrix isolation, cold gases, and plasmas, and molecular ions containing argon have been made and also detected in space. One solid interstitial compound of argon, Ar1C60 is stable at room temperature. Ar1C60 was discovered by CSIRO.

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Further reading